Even as Anya Ayoung Chee was fending for herself on Project Runway out in New York, there were Trinbagonians being inspired by her and realising they too could have a future in the fashion industry. And now you will find more youth than before sketching designs and daring to make contact with the likes of Ayoung Chee, Meiling, Claudia Pegus, Heather Jones and Peter Elias, seeking advice and critiques on their work.
You will be introduced to three such young developing designers later in this article, but for now let's look at a new television series that offers even more hope and encouragement. Mission Catwalk begins this Tuesday on CCN TV6 at 9 p.m. This show can, in a nutshell, be considered a Caribbean version of Project Runway, but with different elements and facets giving the reality series a completely regional identity.
Mission Catwalk is executive produced, hosted and was conceptualised by Jamaican businesswoman, Keneea Linton-George who is from Manchester, Jamaica but is married to a Trinidadian. The show is produced by the KTL Group Limited a marketing and video production company headed by Linton-George who began working in the television arena in 2008.
"I began working in fashion design in 2005 and having always been interested in television production, decided to combine the two. I have loved fashion since I was a child and have been creating designs since I was 11 years old. This show is to promote our talents in the Caribbean and provide an international platform for our designers."
When I first saw America's Top Model, I thought why not a show for the designers. Then came Project Runway and I was like, Ok maybe a franchaise, but we could not afford what that cost. So, I created a show formulated to fit in with who we are in the Caribbean and we ran the first season last year in Jamaica only. These shows were half-hour episodes and was very successful, encouraging us to go regional and do the one hour epidodes," Linton-George said.
Linton-George said she could only afford to fly in seven young designers from the other islands to join the Jamaican participants. She put up a page on Facebook and sent out blast emails to let designers throughout the region know about the competition.
The prizes offered are also quite attractive with the first prize including; an opportunity to show a collection at London Fashion Week in September, JMD$500,000 cash, funding to start-up a clothing line courtesy of the National Commercial Bank of Jamaica.
The winner will also receive industrial sewing equipment valued at JMD$200,000 courtesy of Singer Jamaica. a scholarship to train with world-renowned master tailor, Andrew Ramroop of Maurice Sedwell, Savile Row, London and a scholarship to pursue fashion programme at London College Of Fashion.
We told you there are three Trinbagonian designers participating in the competition, one of them being, 23-year-old, Janelle Forde. The self-taught fashion designer said she began to develop an interest in fashion as a teen. She has shown at the Brooklyn and Barbados Fashion Weeks and is presently pursuing a Masters at UWI Barbados in Development Statistics on the Barbados Fashion Industry.
"In those days fashion was about looking for something nice and unique to wear at the parties and clubs. I began to get serious about it while I was at UWI when I participated in a fashion show on campus. My first serious collection was named, Tropical Glamour and I now have my own line, J.Angelique," Forde said.
Shannon Kwong is also 23 years old and grew up having the illustrations and art all around her. In 2007 she began studies at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she pursued Fashion Design and was presented the award for Best Design Portfolio. Kwong creates based on inspiration drawn from whatever she experiences whether it is something she sees or even a sentence or phrase that catches her attention. Her style is simple and uniquely Trinbagonian.
Ryan Chan is a 25-year-old multifaceted designer/artist who is self-taught and designs jewelry as well as couture. He said he has always loved art and fashion and combines the two in his creations. He also designs Carnival costumes and has worked with the band, Spice. He hooked up with Meiling on Twitter one day and sent her some of his work. She was impressed and very encouraging, Chan said.
"I am actually a fashion designer because of my sister who inspires me. She is my best friend and we are like twins. Designing is a way to express myself and showcase who I am. I like the more edgy stuff, but I also do have a softer side that comes through in my work," Chan said.
The series is being shot in Jamaica and along with these three Trinidadian competitors there are 12 others from other islands including Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana. Judging from what our Trinis said and also observing their interaction there is a lot of comaraderie on set, with a bit less of the snarling and eye-gouging seen on Project Runway and Top Model. Don't get us wrong, there is the spirit of competition, but these three at least, seemed to genuinely like each other. And Linton-George also seems to be a darling.
So, Tuesday at 9 p.m. tune in to CCN TV6 to begin rooting for your favourite designer on Mission Catwalk.